Red and white confetti and balloons remained tightly-fastened above the rafters. No trophy was presented, nor were any nets cut down. The Nebraska women’s basketball team was outmatched, outplayed and, ultimately, outranked Sunday evening against the Big Ten champions, Penn State, 82-67.
Sunday’s matchup with title implications was the last game the Nebraska women would ever play in the Bob Devaney Sports Center, and while leaving the Devaney Center on top of the Big Ten would have been sentimental, that’s usually not how sports turn out.
Instead of showering Husker senior guard Lindsey Moore with layers of confetti, the co-all-time starts leader of Nebraska women’s basketball left the Devaney Center with a second-place finish and a senior tribute. And instead of coach Connie Yori slicing down the nets in front of a crowd of more than 10,000 fans, Yori had to settle for a silver in the conference.
“That’s not how we wanted to leave the Devaney, but we played a really good team,” Yori said.
Still, Sunday’s game against the Nittany Lions was historic for the Devaney Center, and not just because it marked the last game for Nebraska.
Penn State guard Maggie Lucas found and hit a rhythm, nailing eight 3-pointers in the game – a new Devaney Center record (Nebraska or opponent) for women’s basketball.
Lucas’ performance, which consisted of 34 points, nine rebounds and three steals rained on Nebraska’s parade – or rather halted it – to finish the regular season with an 11-game win streak and No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament.
Nebraska could not find the answer for Lucas all night.
With a 3-point Husker lead almost seven minutes into the game, Lucas took over. The junior guard worked the ball to the right elbow, faked a spin to the left and released a pull-away jumper uncontested to tie the game.
After a Nebraska turnover, Penn State found Lucas open behind the arc. She rattled in the three to give the Nittany Lions the lead. A second consecutive Husker turnover gave Penn State the look to Lucas again. Exact same spot; exact same result. Penn State led 14-8.
“She was shooting the ball well,” Moore said. “She had good looks, she put them up and she’s a great shooter; she knocked them down.”
Penn State held a consistent lead of about eight points for another five minutes. At that point, with eight minutes left in the first half, Moore was shooting perfect from the field with 11 points, but her main supporting cast of junior Jordan Hooper had only two points while sophomore Emily Cady had a goose egg on the scoreboard.
Following the timeout, though, Hooper and Cady produced an 11-4 run by themselves to put Nebraska within 31-30 and two minutes remaining in the half.
Just as the Huskers had found momentum, Penn State closed the final two minutes on a 7-2 run to give the Nittany Lions a 38-32 lead.
To open the second half, Nebraska worked around Moore’s early foul trouble. The Huskers even eventually cut the lead to three points, but Lucas’ four second-half 3-pointers, and Penn State’s 69 percent shooting from the field put the game out of reach.
“Maggie had a great game,” Yori said. “I’m not sure that I’ve coached where anyone has made (eight) three’s.”
Nebraska didn’t pull off the dramatic finish or leave the Devaney Center as Big Ten champions, but Moore said she will remember the complex as much more than Sunday’s game.
“It’s kind of sad, but it’s also really exciting,” she said. “There are so many emotions that went into this game, so it’s really hard to pinpoint one emotion.”